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Two Opposition Lawmakers Assaulted as Protest Turns Violent

More than 1,000 anti-opposition protesters had gathered outside the Assembly to demand the removal of Rescue Party President Kem Sokha from office.

Two lawmakers from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party were seriously injured after they were beaten by protesters outside the National Assembly on Monday.

More than 1,000 anti-opposition protesters had gathered outside the Assembly to demand the removal of Rescue Party President Kem Sokha from office, but while most of the protesters disbanded after delivering a petition to the Assembly, a small contingent remained, waiting for the lawmakers to leave the building after the morning session.

They set upon lawmakers Nhay Chamreoun and Kong Sakphea as they left the building in their vehicles. Both men were beaten and kicked in the head, leaving them bloodied and dazed.

Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann said both men were injured in the head and face, after protesters pulled them from their cars. The party condemned the act and called on authorities to find the perpetrators, he said.

“They have serious head injuries, because those protesters kicked and beat their heads and faces,” he said. “Now they are getting medical treatment. Such a serious issue should not be ignored, nor allowed to happen in front of such a top institution. I believe serious action should be taken.”

The assailants are thought to have been part of the protest, he said, but the Rescue Party is waiting to learn more from the police and the Ministry of Interior.

Sok Eysan, a spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, denied party responsibility for the violence. The demonstration was made of “mixed groups,” he said. “If we find the perpetrators, they will take responsibility before the law,” he said.

Likewise, Hun Many, a CPP lawmaker and youngest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, said on Facebook he did not support the violence.

City officials said in a statement the protest was not legal and that organizers were advised to halt at around 10:30 am. The attackers will be investigated and brought to justice, the statement said.

The US Embassy condemned the attacks. “We call on the authorities to carry out a thorough and transparent investigation into these attacks, to maintain order at the National Assembly and to ensure the safety of politicians from all parties,” embassy spokesman Jay Raman told VOA Khmer in an email.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, called the attacks “serious violations of the immunity of parliamentarians.” He called on authorities to undertake a credible investigation of the attacks.

Phil Robertson, deputy director for the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, cautioned restraint from excessive force by supporters of both the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition.

The attacks come while Hun Sen is in France on an official visit, where protesters gathered to call for his ouster.